Former freelance business journalist. I began to write short fiction and pantomimes in the mid nineties, did an MA in Creative Writing in 2002/3 – putting the cart before the horse, this - then began the Libby Sarjeant series.
Tell us about Murder to Music in a few sentences.
The eighth in the Libby series, which are a sweetly old fashioned (!) cosy murder mystery series.
How did you come to write this particular book?
If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
I love all my regular cast of characters.
Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
The series is set in a fictional village in Kent where I live. Readers tell me the village, Steeple Martin, is a character in itself. It has a proper map and everything!
How can people buy your books?
Er… (SA – the easiest way is through her website )
What qualities are needed by a successful writer?
Persistence and a thick hide.
What is your working method?
Method? What method?
What single biggest mistake do beginners to writing make?
Not to read.
To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?
I revise all the way through, so when I type “mss ends” it goes straight off to my editor.
To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
It’s obviously very important. If there was no categorisation, you might buy, say, Fotherington Towers thinking it was about an architectural gem and find out you’d bought a 1920s murder mystery.
Marketing is often considered a chore. What is your opinion on this issue and how do you deal with it?
It is a chore, but a necessary one. The publicist at my publishers does most of it, but I’m very happy to go and talk to people or participate in conferences or festivals. How else are people going to know about your books?
How do you know where to begin any given story?
I don’t! I just plunge in where angels fear to tread and sort it out afterwards.
What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?
Do you have support from family and friends, or a writing group?
My grown up children have always known what Mum does for a living and take it for granted. I’ve never belonged to a writing group, although I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and have made lifelong friends there. Any support I need, or information on anything that comes up (the last was “What do you call those iron things you see on the walls of old buildings?”) comes from them.
Is presentation of the MS as important as agents and publishers suggest?
How long does it normally take you to write a novel?
I publish two a year, but I suppose in reality it’s about four months.
What are your inspirations?
Countryside, houses and money.
If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
Not being able to get rid of the terror that assails you when you’ve sent off the latest mss.
Is there an aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
The achievement at the end!
Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
A bit of both. There are some people who will never be able to write something which is enjoyable to read however many courses they go on.
What are you writing now?
The ninth Libby Sarjeant book, Murder at the Manor.
Do you have a website or blog that readers can visit?
www.lesleycookman.co.uk there is a link to my blog on the website.
Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
A country cottage with a view, preferably with a little bit of sea.
Where do you actually write?
In my small office, which is spectacularly untidy, in a small house in a small seaside town.